The Geffrye Museum
If I lived to be 100 years old I know I will still never see and do everything there is to see and do in London. That's what makes it such an exciting city. Thanks goes to my VT friend Jo104 who told me about this place in Shoreditch, East London, otherwise I would have been none the wiser and missed a little hidden gem.
The Geffrye museum is unique because it is the ONLY museum dedicated to furniture and the domestic interiors of the urban middle class in the UK. Dating from 1600 through to the present day, there are displays of "rooms" - living rooms in particular - showing how people decorated their personal living space. Every minute detail has been carefully reconstructed to look as authentic as possible. At the moment each room has been decorated for Christmas and it was quite strange seeing a 60's lounge which reminded me of Christmases at home as a child.
The Geffrye museum was originally the site of Ironmonger's Alms houses but Sir Robert Geffrye transformed it into a museum dedicated to furniture to inspire the furniture makers whose workshops proliferated in the area at the time.
The museum is about 3/4 of a mile walk from Liverpool Street Station. You can also take a bus 67, 149, 242, 243, and 394. Entry is free and there is a restaurant.
Sundays and Bank Holidays 12-5pm
Closed Mondays (unless it's a Bank Holiday), Good Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
If you happen to be travelling on a District Line tube through Gloucester Road underground station, make sure you have a look out the window, or even get off the train and catch the next one.
Why? Well, so that you can see the art exhibition of course!
One of the stranger places I have seen an art exhibition, Gloucester Road tube station hosts four exhibitions per year on a disused platform on the District and Circle line.
Thousands of passengers each month travel past the exhibition, where you can see a range of work by both lesser known and well established artists.
I have heard of people making the journey to Gloucester Road just to see the exhibitions.
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture
An extraordinary man
Richard Francis Burton - soldier, explorer, traveller extraordinaire (the first European to enter Mecca - disguised as an Arab - and live to tell the tale), diplomat (though rarely diplomatic ), scholar, linguist, translator of the Arabian Nights, author, - a fantastic character who lived his life to the full and achieved fame but never fortune, the recognition of his peers but never a real acceptance by the high and the mighty of the land - died in Trieste in 1890. Despite all his amazing work, even in death he was an outcast and instead of in a hero's tomb in a great city church or cathedral, his burial place is to be found in the small churchyard of St Mary Magdalene's Roman Catholic church near the Thames at Mortlake in south-west London.
Ever the wanderer, Burton wanted to be laid to rest in a tent in the desert. Well, Mortlake's a long way from his beloved Arabia but he did get his tent, and Isobel, his wife and most loyal companion, lies beside him. There's a small window on the back wall of the tomb through which you can see the interior of the tent where the coffins rest, side by side. There is also a dedicated stained glass window inside the church.
Lovers of adventure and adventurers should make the pilgrimage to Mortlake sometime when they are passing through London to pay homage to this most extraordinary man.
The church is open weekdays (except Friday) and Saturday from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m, and on Sunday from 9.00 a.m. to 7.30 p.m
Mortlake Station ( regular trains from Waterloo) is a 5 minute walk away.
Directions for drivers and bus access can be found on the church website
- Historical Travel
Screening Room at the Covent Garden Hotel
Covent Garden Hotel, a boutique Hotel in London's West End has it's own fully equipped state-of-the-art multi media screening room.
The cinema is pretty luxurious in design and has extremely comfortable leather seats
You can hire it for private screenings, or go along to some of their advertised screening nights.
We had a meal at the Hotel, and then enjoyed a screening of Gold Finger.
Covent Garden Hotel
10 Monmouth Street London WC2H 9HB
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
- Arts and Culture
Short people only!??!
We were walking along the River Thames, In West London - from Kew Bridge to dinner at Chiswick.
There is a path that follows the Thames, with the river on one side and homes on the other.
Some of the houses along here are a little different - they have really short front doors!! There are steps up to the door - but it looks pretty crazy!
I guess it is because they are only about 2-3 metres from the water, and if the river floods then they won't get wet carpet....
Walk along the Thames Footpath, near Strand on the Green, Chiswick.
Nearest Tube: Gunnersbury
Nearest Train: Kew Bridge
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Surprise - really good coffee in London!!!
We have possibly found the best coffee in London, hidden away in the 'burbs!
Munsons is a small cafe located off the beaten path in Ealing, West London.
They have a reputation in the area for having the best coffee in London - and it sure is good!!
They also serve fabulous home made cakes and delicious anti-pasto and sandwiches.
If you find yourself in this area of London, it is worth a stop .
71a St. Marys Rd
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Camley Street Natural Park.
Hidden away in London is Camley Street Natural park. Their goal is to protect London´s wildlife for the future.
Jonathan Parker took me here. It was our first VT-meeting and he wanted to show me a hidden place in London which I would not have found or thought of on my own. He was right about that. I had never before heard about this park in London.
Camley Street Natural Park is managed by London Wildlife Trust and quite hidden away here in central London, that is why I add it here under "off the beaten path" tips. It was purposely created here so that people in a big city can see what actual nature is - a so called nature reserve. Because even though London has got so many green spaces, then they are man made, this space is pure nature with grassland, woodland and wetland. There is so much wildlife here as well, I guess birds can spot real nature.
Herbs and vegetables are grown at the park and there are information signs and guidance to how to spot different herbs and vegetables. They even have a Floating Forest Garden, a boat in which they grow herbs. Lovely.
On this site used to be a railway coal yard. No buildings were erected here as wildlife enthusiasts wanted to put up a nature park here.
It is located between Regent´s Canal and St. Pancras International station. So close to King´s Cross with its busy street. Jonathan and I met up in Camden Town and walked by the canal to this park. We got lost, but were given directions. I would say that it were better to visit this park coming from King´s Cross - St. Pancras, but it was easier for us to meet up at Camden Town.
Visitors are welcome to walk here or get refuge from the bustling city life, which I can wouch for is getting more and more busy. Never before have I seen so many people in London as in October-December 2012. It was getting to a point of me wanting to get away, and I love London. So I gather that a refuge like this park is necessary when living in such a big city. I don´t know how Londoners can cope with such a fast pace of life. I live in Iceland by the ocean and have nature at my feet, so I never thought about it.
There is a visitor centre close to the entrance of the park.
Opening hours: daily from 10:00-17:00 or until dusk.
Gordon's Wine Bar
Gordon's wine bar is the kind of place most visitors stumble across by accident - but only if they are lucky! Tucked away in Villiers street, the unassuming, dark, dingy frontage give the passer by the impression that this drinking establishment went out of business years ago.. don't be fooled - it is only masking an even darker and even dingier bar beneath the busy street!
Underneath Kipling House, where Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling lived and Francis Bacon was born, you enter via the steps where you will find yourself in something out of a Dickens novel - the decor is brown smoke stained walls pasted with old yellowing newspapers and arches so low anyone over 5'2" must stoop to find a table. Much of the seating area has no electricity - just candles - and that low, menacing rumbling you hear every so often is the trains coming in and out of Charing Cross. On rainy days, the black walls drip heavily, so watch where you put your coats and bags.
They have a fine selection of wines from around the world and the barman really knows his wines and will be able to help. They only have German wines occasionally though - and when they do they are a Riesling produced in Australia! Oh well - we settled for a Medium Dry South African at £3.50 for a small glass.
They do food as well for about £7 a meal - for example, ploughmans (bread, cheese, salad or salmon or pasta etc etc)- and there is an outside seating area - but with an interior with more character than any wine bar in London who wants to sit outside??
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Temple Church - a place dear to my heart
Built by the Knights Templar, this is the last surviving round church in London. It is nestled between two Inns of Court (the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple) which is where law students go to live/study before becoming full-fledged barristers.
The very special thing about this church takes place on Sundays 11:15am. The choral mattins, sung by the Temple Church's own all-boy/men choir. 12 men and 18 boys, most AMAZING voices ever.
This is also where I met my friend Sir John and his wife Betty. I love Temple Church and the surrounding Inns of Court and this is my plug to you all: Check out Temple Church. Attend a Sunday Choral Mattins (or a lunchtime concert, held on Wednesdays at 1:15PM) or check out the Temple Gardens during the week around lunchtime. The church is beautiful and their preacher/semon-person/priest (called "master") is one of the best rhetoricians I know. Reverend Robin-Griffith Jones, Reverent and Valiant Master of the Temple, is one of the sweetest, smartest men I know and he's recently released his book on the DaVinci Code, debunking the unfounded 'facts' in the book. (Don't get me wrong, I loved the book, but just go to one of the Master's talks and he will win you over. I promise!)
I love the Temple Church dearly, I've been attending the services for over a year and I go back whenever I can. I just ask that people who are coming to visit the church, respect the fact that students are studying for their bar exam there and that the Church takes great pains to allow tourists to come into the Inner/Middle Temple area. Feel free to take your pictures, but not during services. If you come for the services, remember that the Church is primarily a place of God and not a tourist site. Please dress appropriately to services and if you want to come to the church but not the service, please wait quietly outside.
Otherwise, enjoy your visit to the Temple Church! :-) And I hope you end up loving it as much as I do, regardless of the book.
- Historical Travel
Best view of London! (other than the Eye!)
Westminster CATHEDRAL (not Westminster Abbey) is located near the Victoria station. A candy-house looking Roman Catholic church in the middle of a very Protestant country. HOWEVER, if you ask the lady at the desk, she'll guide you to an elevator where you paid about 3 quid (pounds) to ride all the way to the top of the cathedral where you will get an AMAZING view of London! It's a hell of a lot cheaper than the Millennium Eye's 11.50 quid! Check it out!
-it is also a very pretty church!
- Family Travel
- Religious Travel
St. Mary's Hospital - expect the unexpected
Discover for yourself the secrets of the laboratory in which Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. An in-situ reconstruction of the laboratory, displays and a video uncover the remarkable story of how a chance discovery became a lifesaving drug destined to revolutionise medicine. Love it when you get to see where it really happened.
The extensive archives of St Mary's Hospital are also open for research.
However, it is fair to suggest that I wasn't here to see the exhibition. No, I was just walking past and didn't find out about it till later. Perhaps when I visit again.......and have more time than to admire the wonderful architecture.
Open at other times by appointment only (Monday-Thursday 14.00-17.00 and Friday 10.00-17.00).
Closed on public holidays.
It's in Praed Street.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
If you fancy an easy day trip out of London, why not head to Windsor and visit the castle.
Windsor Castle is located 37kms west of London, and has been home to the Royals for over 900 years.
You can wander around the gardens and at certain times you can visit the state rooms.
The town of Windsor is also worth checking out and there are plenty of places to eat and get warm - especially if you go in January like we did!
You can catch the train from London Paddington to Windsor - it takes less than 1 hour (www.thetrainline.com) or it is also an easy drive.
- Castles and Palaces
- Budget Travel
Day trip to Bath
If you fancy a day trip out of London, why not head for historic Bath.
Bath is a beautiful town located less than 2 hours drive west of London.
It is the perfect place to spend a day (or longer) roaming around the cobbled streets, visiting the famous bath spa and sampling some of Baths great cuisine.
For more details visit my Bath Page
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library - a gem.
Sarah (Toonsarah) and her husband, Chris, decided on taking me on a surprise destination tour, while I was in London for a couple of months. I had visited a lot of museums and galleries etc, and Sarah´s husband got an idea of where to take us, where I had most likely never been. We met up in Canada Water and followed Chris to the secret destination. We walked by the canal up to Surrey Water and then by Thames to Rotherhithe. Our secret destination was the Sands Films Sudios, a remarkable place, a true gem hidden away in a 18th century, Grade II listed, former grain warehouse, called Grice´s Granary, in SE-London at 82 Saint Marychurch Street.
The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library keeps a large picture collection of costumes from historical periods, for films, theatre etc. There are thousands of large green books, which one can flicker through for reference to how costumes and settings were at a certain period in time. They don´t have it computerised, but use the old system. It was just amazing, I walked through the narrow corridors with all these costumes and accessories feeling such respect. I am such a fan of English films and plays, that I felt priviliged to be able to visit the library, and very grateful to Sarah and Chris for taking me there. There were people at work there, making costumes etc, offering their help to us.
All over were costumes and props from plays and films, f.ex. Keira Knightley´s slippers from the film "Pride and Prejudice", but Sand Films made most of the costumes for that film, Derec Jacobi´s waistcoat from the "Fool". And an original waistcoat from ca 1830 and the copy from "The Young Victoria" from 2006 placed together. Some of the costumes are recycled to make other costumes.
The library was established in 1976 and they are a non-profit educational trust, offering their services on picture research for free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 10:00-16:00.
Admission: free of charge.
In the same restored warehouse are the Sands Films Studios. We didn´t visit that part, but there 25 people work on costume making etc. They are known for their quality work and make period costumes for films, theatre, TV etc. They have made costumes and offer other services for some big Oscar winning films and big names. Sand Films also make high quality films, f.ex. the adaptation of Charles Dickens´s "Little Dorrit" and "The Fool". They are unique as they are self-sufficient and in their studios they have everything needed to make films. They rent out their stage for films, TV shows etc. and provide everything needed - an "all in deal".
Opposite the library and Sands Films Studios is the Mayflower bar, from where the Mayflower sailed in 1620 on its voyage to America. We went there for a drink after visiting the library.
Tube: Rotherhithe (overground) or Canada Water.
The Brunel Museum - the Thames Tunnel.
I visited the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe with Sarah (Toonsarah) and her husband, Chris. It is a small, but very interesting museum in the engine house for Brunel´s tunnel.
On a plaque on the engine house says: "The tunnel shaft and pumping house for Marc Brunel´s tunnel was constructed between 1825-1843. This was the first thoroughfare under a navigable river in the world".
The tunnel was constructed by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Its purpose was to carry cargo on horse carts.
The museum is on two floors, with drawings and paintings of the making, the technology and the history of the tunnel. It is an absolutely amazing project, very dangerous though and the men worked under unbelievably dangerous circumstances.
The tunnel collapsed frequently and the water of Thames, which was a sewer really at this time, came pouring into the tunnel, the methane gas of the sewer producing a risk of fire in the tunnel. The miners used candles and there were fires when the methane gas came into contact with the flames of the candles. In 1828 Thames came pouring into the tunnels and almost killed Isambard Brunel, who had a narrow escape, but 6 of his workers were killed. Investors were losing faith in the tunnel project, which was to take 3 years, but was delayed and delayed, so all in all it took 18 years to finish. When the Brunels almost ran out of money to finish the tunnel, they held a fancy banquet in the tunnel for 50 people, who had influence in the society. These people helped with further fundings of the tunnel.
The tunnel leads from Rotherhithe, under Thames, and into Wapping on the north side of the river. When the tunnel was finished, in the first 10 weeks, one million people paid an entrance fee of a penny for strolling under the Thames. They had to go down the shaft and into the Grand Entrance Hall. In the tunnel were shops in arcades on both sides. This must have been quite a sight, dressed up people strolling under the Thames in these days. The tunnel was never used for its initial purpose, for carrying cargo by horse carts.
The Grand Entrance Hall has been called the 8th Wonder of the World. It is locked and not open to the public today, apart from three times a week, when there are guided tours of the Grand Entrance Hall. The entrance to the tunnel is next to the engine house.
26 years later, in 1869, the railway started running through the Brunel tunnel with freight, making the tunnel the first tunnel of the underground railway system, which is the oldest in the world. These old trains filled the tunnel with smoke, as there was no ventilation in the tunnel. Imagine what it must have been like for the workers :( The Thames Tunnel is now used by the London Overground system, with the Rotherhithe station being the closest to the museum.
Opening hours: Every day from 10:00-17:00. On Thursdays from 10:00-21:30. There is a small café and a shop at the museum.
Admission: GBP 3.
The Brunel Museum is located at Railway Avenue in Rotherhithe. Almost next to the museum is the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library (see my former tip) and the Mayflower bar.
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